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Start ’em young

Jordan Lyles, whom the Astros hope will be a big piece of their future, has arrived.

The Astros took an injury to lefthander Wandy Rodriguez as a cue to summon Lyles to make his first major league start tonight against the Chicago Cubs. At 20 years, 7 months and 12 days, Lyles will be the fourth-youngest pitcher to take the mound for the Astros.

His teammates view this development with a mixture of excitement and amazement.

Much of the excitement comes from the aplomb with which Lyles handled competing for a spot in the starting rotation during spring training. The amazement kicks in when considering where they were mentally, physically, geographically and developmentally at age 20.

The kid had a solid outing, which I’m sure made Sean Pendergrast and a bunch of other people happy. What interested me about this was seeing the list of other similarly young pitchers who had made their debuts with the Astros in years past. Here’s the list, which was only in the print section, with how they did in their careers:

Pitcher Years Wins Losses ERA WAR =========================================== J. Dahl 1 0 1 16.88 -0.7 L. Dierker 14 139 123 3.31 38.1 C. Zachary 9 10 29 4.57 -1.2 J. Juden 8 27 32 4.81 -0.9 L. Yellen 2 0 0 6.23 -0.8 J. Ray 9 43 30 3.61 5.2

“WAR” = wins above replacement. An MVP season is about 8 WAR in a season, an All Star is five or more, a worthwhile starting position player should contribute at least 2, and anything below 0 is literally a waste of a roster spot. As you can see, the precedents for Lyles aren’t terribly encouraging. Larry Dierker is obviously a best case scenario. Jim Ray had a couple of decent seasons as a reliever. We’ll never know what Jay Dahl might have been, as he died in an auto accident two years after his debut, at the age of 19. The others – Chris Zachary, Jeff Juden, and Larry Yellen – didn’t amount to much. Strictly speaking, one All-Star quality player out of six isn’t such a bad batting average, though in this case the Stros need it to improve. I’ll be rooting for Jordan Lyles to live up to his expectations.

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